ARTICLE

5 Steps to Quickly Onboard New Staff for Food Testing Labs

Introduction

To remain competitive within the food sector, you need to get every last drop of efficiency from your testing lab. Naturally, achieving this requires machine uptime to be fully maximized, which can be a challenge if you’re bringing in a new employee or introducing existing staff to new technology. There is a need to ensure that new members of the team can obtain rapid and reliable results.

To remain competitive within the food sector, you need to get every last drop of efficiency from your testing lab. Naturally, achieving this requires machine uptime to be fully maximized, which can be a challenge if you’re bringing in a new employee or introducing existing staff to new technology. There is a need to ensure that new members of the team can obtain rapid and reliable results.

In addition, organizations with multiple sites need confidence that the results obtained at every site are operator – and instrument – independent, whether in Friesland, The Netherlands or in Friesland, Wisconsin, USA. From selecting the right technology to providing thorough training, here are five steps to get your staff up and running as quickly as possible – ensuring maximum productivity and results that can be trusted.

1. Identify the right technology for the job

The very first step to increasing the efficiency of new staff is simply recognizing the need for technology. Relying on wet chemistry methods in food testing is not only slow, but can also lead to great variability in results when new staff are recruited. However, technology purchases should form part of a broader strategy to optimize your processes and your long-term needs must be taken under consideration. New instruments should be easy to use and minimize the time from sample introduction to the result. Sample handling should also be minimized to remove a large source of operator-dependent error.

To maximize the efficiency of your staff and prevent valuable loss of time, it is also important to source analytical instruments that are set up with appropriate calibrations. Where it is not possible to find technology with ready-made calibrations, or your calibrations need to be changed, it is vital to partner with an instrument supplier than understands your product lines and can support you with on-site calibration development.

2. Partner with an organization that understands your training needs

Acquiring new technology for your facility and obtaining accurate results from the get-go can be a challenging task. Furthermore, as regulations become ever more stringent, documented user training is often a required component for accreditation bodies. Instead of simply buying new stand-alone instruments from a supplier, you may seek a full-service solution complete with fully customizable training program for new users. It may be beneficial for you to have your entire team trained on the new instrument, or it could be efficient to have a few “super users”. A good instrument supplier can partner with you to determine the best training scenarios for your situation.

3. Get ongoing support where and when you need it

Initial training on new technologies is crucial for maintaining staff productivity, but if you’re experiencing turnover, then you will also require ongoing training support. It can be challenging for new staff entering the company without experienced users to guide them, and this is where the relationship between you and your instrument supplier is critical. It enables you to maintain a single, knowledgeable point of contact that can help you through periods of change.

Training may involve classroom courses or further on-site training at your production facility, but again it’s important that your instrument supplier can adapt to deliver a program to best benefit your productivity.

Even for staff that were present for initial training, ongoing training support can be an important tool. Remote training options, where an engineer temporarily accesses your systems, can help even experienced users troubleshoot when they acquire unexpected results. On-site refresher courses and online learning tools can also help these users to get the most out of your technology.

4. Make use of data sharing and instrument connectivity

For organizations in the food industry with suites of instruments, or instruments spread across multiple sites, it can prove extremely beneficial to utilize the connectivity features of the latest analytical technology. When instruments are connected to the cloud, results can be automatically synchronized to an online database and accessed by anyone within the organization. This enables super-users of an instrument to validate and act on all results from across a facility, while effectively keeping track of the instrument’s performance. In turn, this can eliminate the need for in-depth training of basic users who may not be experienced scientists.

Furthermore, coupling instruments to a central point allows network administrators to update all systems and all calibrations across the network at the same time. This removes potential headaches for new staff working with the instruments and is an additional way to maximize their productivity.

5. Implement robust SOPs

The steps above are a vital part of ensuring that businesses can effectively on-board new members of their teams. However, for businesses experiencing a high turnover of staff, one of the most important factors to consider is the implementation of strong, well-documented standard operating procedures (SOPs), even for procedures that are not part of your accreditation scope.

An SOP should be a living document, updated regularly as instrumentation, applications and regulations change. When new staff are recruited, detailed SOPs that are tailored to their function will help them to get to grips with their responsibilities as quickly as possible and will increase the reliability of their results.

“Nothing’s gonna stop us now”

Following these five steps will enable the new staff entering your food testing lab to hit the ground running and produce reliable results as soon as possible. Additionally, it will ensure that when the needs of the plant change, whether due to evolving regulations or altered product lines, staff will have the support in place to help them quickly understand new procedures. Managing staff turnover is a key part of the puzzle to facilitate round-the-clock production in the food industry and can help you gain valuable ground over your competition.